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Protect Your Content from Being Copied in 3 Steps

This guest post is by Abhishek of Budding Geek.

Content scraping still haunts the entire blogosphere. No matter how hard you try to defend your creation, content thieves will always find a way to steal it!

It really feels terrible to find exact copies of your original work distributed all over the internet, often without any credit or link back to your blog as the source. The most frustrating part is when you find the copied content outranking your own blog in the search engines.

How can someone copy content from your blog?

Copycats can steal your content in a number of ways, but there are two key techniques:

  1. by directly copying text and images from your published post and re-publishing the content on the spammer’s blog (or splog!)
  2. by scraping your RSS feed. The truth is, this form of plagiarism is the most difficult to tackle.

Since plagiarism is impossible to obliterate, we need to safeguard our blogs from these vulnerabilities in such a way that it becomes at least extremely difficult for the content thief to plagiarize our content.

Protect your blog content

There are a few different ways you can protect your blog content.

1. Disable text selection on your blog

This is the first and most essential step to discourage direct copying of your content.

Users of the Blogger platform can disable text selection from their blogs by manually installing some JavaScript code before the closing <head> tag in the HTML of their blog.

WordPress users can add this feature by installing the wpcopyprotect plugin.

2. Watermark your images

It’s important to watermark all the original images you’ve created for use on your blog. A watermark proves that you are the owner of the copyright to all those images. Moreover, watermarks discourage others from using your photos and illustrations on their blog, since they’d have your blog’s name all over theirs!

Although there are many watermarking utilities available on the internet, I generally prefer to use Windows Live Writer’s inbuilt watermark plugin. Note that if you’re using photos from any other outside source on the web (like Flickr or Picasa), it’s up to you to take a notice of their licenses before reusing them—otherwise you might find yourself guilty of ripping someone else’s content!

3. Manage your RSS feeds

A few months ago, I encountered a terrible content scraper who, I think, was using content scraping software and publishing my posts under several different permalinks. Sounds scary, right? This software basically scans your main content and republishes your posts with the main keywords replaced by synonyms. Isn’t that irritating?

These auto-publishing sploggers target the RSS feed of your blog, where they scrape your creation in just a matter of seconds! In order to stop such exploitation you should either allow partial/short RSS feeds (so that the scraping software doesn’t take all of your content) or add a custom feed signature with a copyright notice in the feed footer section of your blog, like this:

© 2012, All Rights Reserved ¦ yourblog.com

Note that, like a waternark on an image, this note won’t prevent your content from being taken—but when it’s reproduced on another site, readers will see that the content is being used illegally.

Users of the Blogger platform can add a custom feed signature by navigating to Other settings for your blog, then in the Site Feed section, add the following feed signature in the post feed footer:

<p> © copyright 2012 – All rights reserved </p>
<a href=”
http://www.yourblogaddress.com“>Your Blog</a>

For the WordPress platform, I stumbled upon this excellent free plugin that adds a custom signature in the feed footer.

These tips can definitely help you to reduce plagiarism of your content. But what other techniques have you tried? Share them with us in the comments.

Abhishek is a part time blogger from Delhi who loves to write unique and interesting tech tips on a variety of topics like blogging, making money online, SEO, internet marketing and gadgets. Apart from that he is a die heart android fan and so don’t be surprised if you find loads of android tips on his budding blog!

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Comments

  1. These are the things that we all wish never happened, but are always good to have taken care of.

    Truthfully, I haven’t really put much thought into this, but the one thing I did recently is link author name of my content (Gabe Johansson) to Google+ so that it verifies that I am the original author.

    I’m not sure how effective this is as far as stopping content scraping, but I am willing to bet that it has an impact on any content thief trying to rank in Google.

    Thanks,
    -Gabe

    • Abhishek says:

      Hi Gabe, thanks for dropping your valuable comment. I strongly agree with your idea to prove authorship to Google by linking to your plus profile. This is perhaps the best way to ensure that the stolen content is not outranking the original one in the search results, but unfortunately this is not going to stop copycats from stealing your work.

    • Great tips esp. for new bloggers but it won’t really be fool proof. Using google+ is another tip. Thanks.

  2. I understand the wide extent of illegitimate copying and reuse. The problem with such ways of protecting blog content is that, like copy protection schemes and DRM, they prevent legitimate uses to readers and other bloggers, such as copying small portions of text for quoting or reviewing and reading posts in a newsreader.

    I usually don’t follow blogs with partial RSS feeds. If similar blogs with full feeds are available I follow them, otherwise I give up on the blogs with partial feeds. Of the over 500 RSS feeds I subscribe too, only half a dozen are partial (these provide really really good and unique content).

    • Skeptic says:

      Kinda makes me wonder. How & why would you subscribe to over 500 RSS feeds, 494 of which are full? Seems like a lot of information to take in for your own personal pleasure every day/week/month of the year.

  3. Not sure how useful those right-click/text selection disablers could be. Someone could still view source or just disable the relevant javascript with Firebug or a similar tool.

  4. Harsh Agrawal says:

    Useful tips Abhishek
    I also recommend to look into TYNY script which is free and help site owners to get free links even for a copied line from your article

    • Abhishek says:

      Hi Harsh, i am glad you liked these tips. I guess you are talking about TYNT, which automatically creates a back-link to the source when the copied content is pasted anywhere. But this script comes handy only when one has enabled text selection on his or her blog.

      • I think TYNT works better. And it’s effective & useful to take the advantages from the copycats
        Here’s a plugin for those who are not tech geeks..
        http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/easy-tynt/

      • I’m another reader of SML and since I have read the article Harsh is talking about in his comment my blog is getting great backlinks even the content theft issue is now been almost clear. I’d recomment everyone to use that small script in their blog – TYNT.

        Regarding the article, Abhishek. You have mentioned three basic steps which I guess everyone knows about these days but disabling text is not good as we are blogging under Tech niche and here one has to get everything we talk about in our blog so when it comes to something that which requires copy then this suggestion fails that blog.

        About watermark, I did quite a long time. Using watermark image in my blog but later sometime I dropped my idea and started sharing them as it is. I don’t think anyone would be interested to copy the images I use in my post.

        • Abhishek says:

          Irfan, I am not disapproving TYNT. It’s a great tool to get free back-links when you have enabled text selection on your blog. In-fact, if you are blogging under a tech niche in which you need to share code snippets quite often with your users, then disabling text selection can pose a serious problem. Otherwise, i don’t see any problem in using this technique to hinder plagiarism.

  5. Sophia says:

    As a new blogger this is very helpful. Thank you for the info as I didn’t bother to think of it.

    • Abhishek says:

      Hey Sophia, thanks for your feedback. Glad that the post was useful for you :-)

  6. Thanks so much for this article. It seems that the link “manually installing some JavaScript code” is broken. How to get access to this script code please?
    Thanks,
    Sylvie

  7. Stella says:

    Do you think it is acceptable if someone copies your content and writes source of website at the end of post? This means it will give your website a backlink.

    • Georgina Laidlaw says:

      Hey Stella,
      Under international copyright laws, that is illegal. Some bloggers are okay with it, but not all, so it’s always best to ask permission before you reuse someone’s content.
      Georgina

      • Georgina, I’m wondering if this would have any effect on the whole duplicate content issue at all? I haven’t heard anything about duplicate content and SEO in quite awhile, so I don’t know if that’s something that’s a non-issue now, or is it just old news?

  8. S. Emerson says:

    Disabling the right click and all other tricks to stop people copying your posts do not work. They can, for example, view the source code of your page or get it from their browser cache. All these do is annoy legit users who would like to quote you elsewhere for further discussion or mention.

    Michael Gray of Graywolf’s SEO Blog recently revisited his feelings on Full vs Partial RSS feeds.

    One way to catch the scrapers is to include internal links within your articles to pages within your own site then monitor your domain url in Google Alerts. This way you not only catch spammers you also see mentions about your site that you could turn into a networking opportunity.

  9. Thanks for the tip! I’m heading off to get that free plug-in to protect my RSS feeds. Wish there’s a way to add a code in WordPress without having to install another plug-in (and I thought I wanted to cut the number of plugins!)

  10. I’m sorry, but I have to respectfully disagree with the idea of using JavaScript to disable text-selection. This hurts genuine readers who might want to select your text for text-to-speech, selective printing, etc. and makes it harder for other legitimate bloggers (who would reference back to you with a link) to quote sections of your work.

    Meanwhile, it’s trivially bypassed by the badguys – automated content scrapers for example usually don’t run JavaScript.

    Sorry to be blunt and disagreeable, but this is a horrible and user-unfriendly technique that SHOULD have died out with other bad practice from the late 90s.

    Water marking images on the other hand is an excellent idea.

    • Brad says:

      I agree with Jason at ClicktoBegin and Paolo – the people that these actions REALLY affects are the honest folks who wish to use your content for legitimate purposes – such as reposts that gain you more followers/subscribers or pull quotes with appropriate attribution.

      As for watermarking your photos, I think that’s another futile effort. For it to be “effective” it has to be significant and obvious through a big portion of the photo – otherwise it’s just cropped out. And, when you do a significant watermark, you ruin the integrity of the image and distract from the content. Lets be serious, NOBODY likes to view a watermarked image. The first conclusion I come to when I see a watermarked photo is that the photographer is paranoid, angry or self-important. It immediately takes you away from absorbing the content in the image and onto unnecessary thoughts about the photographer.

      At the end of the day, ANYTHING you post online is subject to being stolen and reused without your knowledge. It’s kinda like trying to control people taking pictures at a sporting event by saying nobody can take a picture of you while you’re there. Get real – it’s happening and any effort you make to stop it will just be idiotic.

      The only way to keep people from stealing your writings, photos and original content is by NOT posting it online – and thus, effectively killing the whole purpose of having a blog.

      • Linda says:

        Artists and photographers *are* paranoid and angry, because we are so often ripped off in so many ways. So while yes, no one likes to see a watermark on an image, I’m sorry, we’re going to keep using them, because at least it will make some of the people out there think twice about copyright theft.

        Watermarking does not, however, “prove” anything, as the author has suggested. I have seen other people steal images, remove the watermark, and put on their own. Proving copyright takes a lot more work than a simple watermark.

        That is the bottom line, as the comment above says – if you’re going to post anything online, you are basically giving up control. All we can do is continue to try to educate people on copyright, and try not to get too many headaches (from banging our heads against the wall!) in the process!

        • I was going to say the same thing. I can grab any photo on the internet and stick my logo over it as a watermark, but it doesn’t give me the right to use it – much less a copyright or proof of ownership.

    • Abhishek says:

      Jason, i know that it is quite easy for content thieves to copy your content. There are numerous ways of copying a webpage and that is why i mentioned at the very first place that “plagiarism is impossible to obliterate”
      Secondly, i disagree with your idea that disabling the text selection can hurt genuine readers who wish to do selective printing and quotation. All this can be done easily via RSS Feeds.
      Then what’s the harm in using some extra protection, even if you know that it can be bypassed easily?

      • Why should a genuine user be expected to jump through hoops to make legitimate use of your content?

        You should optimize for your genuine users to have the best experience, not merely leave them with the possibility of working around your futile content protection.

        What’s the harm in using extra protection that can be easily bypassed? It’s an annoyance for a small number of genuine users who might be turned off from repeat visits, subscriptions or purchases.

        If you know it’s trivial to bypass, why risk annoying even ONE genuine user with it?

  11. James King says:

    Thanks for the WordPress plugin. I didn’t know a plugin existed that would disable text selection. I’ll go and activate that plugin right now.

    • James, please at least seriously consider NOT disabling text selection. It’s indisputable that such protection is trivially bypassed anyway, and you’re running the risk of annoying genuine readers who might want to selectively print, use text-to-speech, or might even quote portions of your post with attribution and valuable back-links.

      Content thieves are typically technically proficient and may not even be slowed — many of them use automated content-scraping bots that are immune — by such a protection, leaving only genuine readers who may be less knowledgeable affected.

      Is it REALLY worth while?

  12. Ayaz says:

    Hi Abhishek! That is a great topic you have discussed about and I never thought about this earlier but reading the post it gives me great idea why I should consider this in future.

    Thanks for providing worthy information. :-)

  13. Jai says:

    I think the ‘simple feed copyright’ plugin is better and works out of the box to add that copyright notice to feeds. http://www.quickonlinetips.com/archives/simple-feed-copyright-wordpress-plugin/

  14. Nice post but the link you have provided which explains about protecting your blogger blog from being copied by not allowing people to select your text or images does’nt works.

    Thanks for all the useful information you have provided :)

  15. Thanks for the tips! Recently created a blog on the Blogger platform and did not know how to protect content from copying …

  16. Brad, I think there can still be value in a simple, unobtrusive watermark for images, although I do understand they aren’t for everyone.

    A watermark is good because with a minimal effort you can have it automatically applied to all your images, but it is non-trivial for a content-thief to automatically remove it; they are forced to either perform the cropping by hand or to configure software to specifically target images from your site.

    …and unlike disabling text-selection, no genuine user will ever be inconvenienced by an unobtrusive watermark.

  17. Thanks Abhishek for highlighting an important but an ugly side of blogging. I create my own graphics for my blog and often the images rank higher up than my posts. I do use my blog’s name on the graphics, but it too can be cropped with ease. I too agree that you shouldn’t trouble genuine readers while attempting to discourage plagiarism.

  18. David Tonen says:

    I think your intent in suggesting these resources is good but the two WordPress plugins you linked to are old. The Yoast plugin link goes to an old plugin that is not supported and the RSS footer one has not been updated since 2010 so it is a security risk in and of itself.

    • I’m sorry sir but a plugin is not a security risk JUST because it hasn’t been updated. Fact of the matter is, it probably still works as there have been no significant API changes in that bit of WordPress.

      The reason it hasn’t been updated is more interesting though: it’s now part of my WordPress SEO plugin, with a few more added features.

  19. Lovely post Abhishek and thank you for the plugins.

    My question is this: how original is original?

    With so many blogs and so much content online, to what extent is an article original? I think the only ‘original’ part of content is your writing style & personality that comes across through your content.

    Either than that, I really believe that very few articles are completely original.

    Ultimately, I think that claiming that an article I produce is original is somewhat futile.

    • Abhishek says:

      My Pleasure Peteni, linking your post content to your Google plus profile can quite effectively prove your authorship and originality (see what Gabe recommended in his comment)

  20. Glenn says:

    On another note, I think a better title might be, “Three Steps To Protecting Your Content”

  21. Ehsan Ullah says:

    Disabling text selection is something which I’ve done and it really worked on my blog to protect the content from being copied from scrappers. Nice tips Abhishek. I’m happy your guest post accepted at ProBlogger.

  22. Lagoonboy says:

    Andy Wibbels suggests using Google’s image search to find instances of similar photos.

    Maybe that’s too cumbersome – but I thought I’d mention it.

    http://andywibbels.com/fake-profiles/

    Thanks for the suggestions.

  23. Hi! Abhishek!
    Great tips, especially on managing the RSS. I don’t have that copyright signature so I immediately applied that in mine. Honestly,I do experience when one of my posts got scraped. I don’t know if if’s plagiarism because the blogger included my byline but he used exactly the whole article. I contacted that blogger to take down that article.Fortunately, he deleted after that day.

  24. Lorna says:

    This post arrived at just the right time, we’ve found many of our posts on another blog. Fortunately the situation now seems to be resolved but I’m going to follow your advice to hopefully protect ourselves against it in the future. Thanks

  25. Thank you for the post, I really appreciate it since I’, trying to build my blog from scratch.

    I’m surely going to check out the TYNY script since people keep saying how great it is.

    My only issue is, if the amount of blogs in the world are growing exceptionally, surely it’ll get harder to get noticed? – All this effort done now, could it possibly be for nothing a few months down the line?

    Thank You

  26. Iza says:

    I am using a WP plug-in called PictPocket. Since I have a photography blog, each of my posts is accompanied with an image. PictPocket informs me when any of my images is hot linked. It not only allows me to block the image from displaying on another site, but helped discover the articles copied from my site, without my permission, with and without giving credit. I was able to get them all removed by contacting those web sites hosts.

  27. Maria says:

    Protecting original content is even more important after Panda and Penguin. I knew about the RSS scrapers and actually took care of that in the Yoast SEO plugin. However I was not aware of the wpcopyprotect plugin.

    I’ve installed it on my site and feel better knowing the hard work I put into writing my content isn’t lost on copycats.

    Thanks for this information….invaluable!

  28. The RSS Footer only works in the Feeds and Emails being distributed by Feedburner.

    How do I add a Footer to my WordPress default email subscriptions?

    i.e. When I first launched my blog I didn’t have Feedburner, and my readers first few readers signed up through the default email subcription widget. Then I installed Feedburner. But these readers receive posts straight from WordPress. Unlike the others who receive from Feedburner.

    Thanks

  29. Sam says:

    Protecting original content is even more important after Panda and Penguin. I knew about the RSS scrapers and actually took care of that in the Yoast SEO plugin. However I was not aware of the wpcopyprotect plugin.

    I’ve installed it on my site and feel better knowing the hard work I put into writing my content isn’t lost on copycats.

    Thanks for this information….invaluable!

  30. Seley says:

    Thanks for the RSS protection tip. I tried the wpcopyprotect plugin in one of my wordpress site and it do works well.

  31. Kanu says:

    well really nice tips but i have another Problem someone is downloading my edited stuff and reposting it by reuploadng on other servers and i found no way to stop that. is there any way to block a particular ip address to visit a link or the whole blog (blogger)

    • Abhishek says:

      Kanu, what type of content (text/images/videos) is being republished on other servers ?

  32. The tips provided here are useful.However, for both novice and professional bloggers two things are yet to be known in a perfect way.
    1. How to keep track of your contents in a way that when it is being copied a track back can be made.
    2. How to use Images,Videos and Podcasts, from other Authors. What is the boundary line for licensing and re-usage.

    Nevertheless, the post is thought provoking.

  33. April Ashley says:

    Thank you so much for the valuable information. My teenage daughter is an extraordinary writer and has not shared many of the works that she has created. She has wrote numerous stories that would blow anyone’s mind and I’m not just saying that because I’m her mom. But we are both scared because we don’t want anyone to steal her work. She has a 27 chapter book she wrote but don’t want to go any further with because she is afraid someone might steal it. Now she wants to consider blogging some of her short stories but very apprehensive about it so that is why I’m doing research before we go any further. Thanks again.

  34. Where & How Can I Watermark My Website Images ?

    Please Tell Me ???

    Waiting For Your Reply !!!!

    • Abhishek Raj says:

      @Magson : I personally use windows live writer’s watermarking plugin. However, if you are not using live writer to publish your posts, there are a number of free watermarking utilities available on the internet. You can easily find them using any search engine!

  35. JamesW says:

    Thank you so much for this useful post, I don’t have nothing against people copying my content if they link back to me. But that’s not the case with scrapers, that’s why I used your advice and added free plugin for my rss feed that links back to my blog.

    I hope that this will at least help me to get link back to my blog which I deserve.

    Also adding watermark to images is great idea but it’s time consuming.

    thanks once more for sharing ;)

  36. copyrightuk says:

    Wonderful tips Abhishek. Custom feed signature discussed by you is quite effective parameter to avoid content scrapping. I would surely work upon that . I would also like to share some tips on content protection here http://tinyurl.com/9ttaly2 .